Ring Around the Rosy
During the seventeenth century, the Bubonic Plague (aka Black Death) hit Europe with a vengeance. One of the symptoms of the plague was a red, rosy rash in the shape of a ring that manifested itself on the human skin of its victims.
As a result, the children of the era created a song to accompany a game in order to describe the physical elements of the disease. We know the tune and the game as Ring Around the Rosy.
One such element was believed to be a bad smell, instead of rats, that people thought actually transmitted the plague. Therefore, people carried posies, or sweet-smelling herbs in their pockets to ward off the disease.
The phrase ashes, ashes, we all fall down became a reference to the cremation of the dead bodies of the plague victims. The disease claimed more than half the population.
In any event, many nursery rhymes and fairy tales have hidden meanings. While they appear to be children’s tales, they are really quite complex.